Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who isn't insured in America?

Watching Hillary Clinton's speech to the Democratic convention on the Parliamentary Channel, I noticed how popular "universal healthcare" is to Democrats. I personally think that the Democrats are likely to win the next presidential election, and hence suspect that some sort of (even more) government led healthcare in US is coming soon.

The language is infuriating. After all "universal health care" - who wouldn't want that? Thats like saying "we want good things." How could anybody oppose that? Who wouldn't want everybody to have access to health care?

Of course, there is "universal food" in the US, but these people seem to think providing health care the same way food is provided won't achieve that. There is universal clothing in the US, but these people don't think that providing health care the same way clothing is provided will achieve that. For some reason advocating "universal healthcare" means imposing some huge government program, nationalised hospitals, funded from general taxation, free at the point of consumption (alternatives are some sort of forced saving, but since the US already has that, through medicare and medicaid, I'm not sure what the difference would be). Due to connection of the idea of "universal healthcare" with advocacy for such a huge government program, opposition to such a program is translated into the public mind as opposition to univeral healthcare, opposition to everybody getting healthcare, as though the absence of some corrolary government program for food in the US means that not everybody in the US gets food.

People outside the US even think that health care is provided on a free market in the US, not one where monopolies of privilege are granted to specific insurers; where employers are penalised if they don't buy insurance for their staff; where staff are penalised if they don't accept it; where insurers are forced to provide insurance to certain people; and to insure them for various treatments whether the insured want that coverage or not; where a massive government bureacracy has let millions die whilst holding medicines off the market, imposing regulatory standards that may or may not be necessary, but mean that only the dominant medicine providers can afford to supply medicines; and where dominant healthcare providers are sheltered against competition when the competitors come from the other side of an arbitrary line called a "border"; and where everybody is taxed to pay into a pool of funds, on the state and national level, from which healthcare costs will be paid for anybody deemed suitable by bureaucrats.

And this point should be emphasised along with the fact that healthcare systems that the Democrats seek to emulate do not achieve universal healthcare, and cannot. We in the UK regularly get news reports about people in some areas being told some form of treatment is not available in their local hospital, that they have to go to another, or that the NHS won't provide it at all because it is "too expensive" (how much gets spent on the NHS a year? Has anybody ever capped NHS spending?) So the huge government programs don't achieve "universal health care" either.

So why the pressure for "universal health care" in the US? Because people like Hillary Clinton bandy around this figure that "45 million people" in the US have no health insurance. In Clinton's speech last night, it was 47, actually. Of course, if people ran around saying "two hundred and sixty million people in the US have health insurance" one gets a quite different response, though that would be saying the same thing!

But where does this figure of 45 million come from? This is an interesting documentary that actually says that number is false, the number of uninsured in the US is actually far lower, 8 million:

The transcript, including sources for claims, is here.

Returning to the point that universal healthcare has not been a achieved by vast government programs, here are two other, shorter films, buy the same film maker:

Lest people think that I am claiming the status quo in the US is a good thing, I'll post another film: A while ago I made this post about Cuba that mentioned a film by libertarian major network anchorman John Stossel. Well, here is his documentary on the failings of the US system and what may be done to improve it:


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